Orange’s Jack Wighton celebrated his 100th NRL appearance in style on Saturday night, helping his Canberra Raiders to a fourth straight victory which firmly entrenches the green machine inside the competition’s top four.
Trailing 8-6 at half-time the Raiders scored 14 unanswered second half points to down the New Zealand Warriors 20-8 at GIO Stadium, with Wighton having a huge influence on the game from the back.
In 20 hit ups Wighton ran for 185 metres, second only to his Warriors counterpart Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.
Saturday’s strong performance continued Wighton’s purple patch in 2017, which has plenty of good judges touting him a serious bolter for NSW’s State of Origin campaign.
However Wighton said in an interview last week, he’s still not thinking about the possibility of donning a sky blue jersey just yet.
“I’d love [to play for NSW] but I don’t know how I’m looking in that area, I’ve just got a massive goal to play some consistent footy so that’s all I’m aiming to do at the moment,” he said.
He is all but guaranteed another Country jersey though, as the City-Country Origin concept wraps up in 2017.
“I love City-Country,” Wighton said.
“It’s a great week and a great way to get back out to the country and give back a little bit so hopefully I can get a start there.”
The Warriors became the latest team to learn that if Raiders winger Jordan Rapana doesn't get you, his partner in crime Joey Leilua will.
The steamrolling centre scored crucial four-pointers 20 minutes either side of half-time for the Raiders, although Canberra coach Ricky Stuart put Saturday’s win down to his side’s defensive effort. Particularly skipper Jarrod Croker’s remarkable try-saving tackle on Tuivasa-Sheck.
“A little bit of consistency is good,” he said.
“We had to defend a lot more football than New Zealand in the first half, and they played very well. We had to very good, for a long time.
“[Croker’s] was an amazing effort and it was a real turning point.”